Friday, November 7, 2008

Relinquishing expectations

“Relinquish any expectations of others….”

Those were the wise words of “Cakes” in talking with an abuse survivor. The survivor was having a really bad day, and she shared with me the dialogue she had with Cakes.

It was a long exchange, but I seized on those words. They were like neon lights leaping off the screen at me.

Isn’t it funny how, out of the blue, someone can wind up saying exactly what you need to hear? And they can wind up saying it even when they aren’t saying it to you?

“Relinquish any expectations of others….”

That is a lesson I constantly strive to remind myself of. It is a lesson I constantly seek to relearn. It is a lesson I obviously struggle with. And so I need a lot of reminders.

Sometimes the universe gives me those reminders. Cakes’ words were one of those times.

I struggle A LOT with the realization that no one in Southern Baptist leadership seems to give a hoot about kids being molested by clergy… or about the adults that those wounded kids become. Oh sure… Southern Baptist leaders will talk about “precious children,” but it’s just talk. No one cares enough to actually do anything. That’s what’s real.

And that’s the part that I can never wrap my head around.

Sexual abuse is plenty bad, no doubt about it. It has life-long repercussions. But when I think about what it is that I really, really struggle with the most, it’s this. It’s all these other blind-eyed do-nothing people.

That is what literally haunts me.

To accept the reality of it is sort of like believing in ghosts. I can’t do it.

That’s why I have to keep relearning the “relinquish any expectations” lesson. Because the empty-hearted ghosts are real. And in Southern Baptist circles, they’re everywhere.

Yet I keep refusing to see what is before my own eyes. Instead, despite all evidence to the contrary, I keep expecting them to have hearts. Then I’m stunned when they don’t.

“Relinquish any expectations of others…”

This is the same lesson that my friend, Elana, also reminded me of a while back. On lots of walks, she has listened to me recount things that Baptist leaders have said and done. She has heard my expressions of disbelief and has listened to me repeatedly say things like “Just when I thought I’d seen it all, they do this!”

But one day, Elana gave vent to her own disbelief. “Christa, I can’t believe you still expect anything OTHER than low behavior from them. They have shown you what their true values are and they have shown you over and over again. When will YOU learn? Why do YOU keep expecting the best of them? What holds YOU to that belief?

I think it’s pretty much the same thing Cakes is saying.

I keep assuming that decent people will behave in ways that are decent, and I project that expectation onto them. But over and over again, when it comes to clergy sex abuse, Baptist leaders have shown me that it’s an expectation I need to relinquish.

I’m working on it.

You can see portions of Cakes’ “conversation with a survivor” on his blog.


Anonymous said...

I had decided not to add anything to these wonderful blogs for a while, but this one struck a long remembered chord in me. While pastoring I seemed to get those churches in some type of trouble. This would prompt a lot of my friends to comment, "why would you go to a place like that?" Then when things would get very difficult sometimes friends and family members would ask me, "Why do you keep doing that?"
For a long time I found myself without an answer that even made sence to me. Then one day I got the answer to "Why". I remembered who I worked for. It was not the church, the denomination, nor even myself. My committment was to Him and to Him I must answer.
Christa, I think you may keep on doing what you do because of who it is you are working for. The thousands of voices crying in the dark corners of the churches and parsonages who think that no body cares or understands.
I trully pray for you everyday and ask the Lord to give you the grace and courage to go forward with this very important work. God bless you and all the others who lead out in getting the word out thqt SOMETHING has got to be done NOW!

David Hall said...

I'm flattered--part of relinquishing expectations of others is not waiting to take responsibility for one's own actions. Both the survivor and I have contacted the MPD that an abuse survivor's right to privacy is being violated.

Thank you for your work on behalf of abuse survivors.

Jeri said...

Miyamoto Musashi warns all of us to harbor no expectations at all: not of outcomes, not of allies, not even of winning or losing the current battle. To live in this present moment, aware only of this instant, is the best mindset of anybody who engages in an endeavor. Sometimes, to consider the bleakness of circumstances is to endanger yourself, especially if you tell yourself "there is no help" and then survey the circumstances to confirm that theory. These types of reflections harm the fighter.

When Elijah lamented to God that he was the last man in Israel faithful to God, God told him, "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." (I Kings 19:18)

It is true that 7,000 among an entire country is not very many: probably 3 percent of the population or fewer. And granted, only one of those faithful men was in office: Obadiah. And even Obadiah was not as courageous as Elijah wished, but God accepted him.

On the other hand, God clearly wanted Elijah to operate without reference to these 7,000 faithful. For God, of course, was working in Elijah in a way not given to others. Elijah could articulate the righteousness of God, and I'm sure that many of those 7,000 could not, even if they wanted to. Elijah could endure the temptations of with holding rain from the land, and of calling down fire from heaven, and no other person had been fitted out by God to withstand such a dangerous blessing of power in prayer.

There are reasons that the Christian soldier may not see allies, for God is the ally that He wants His fighters to see and know and have that sort of daily comradeship known only to soldiers.

It's clear that the Baptist denomination has become wedded to this world and is filled with men of this world. And when I consider the total moral and spiritual bankruptcy of Baptist leaders, I am reminded that it was conservative and politically powerful religious leaders who murdered Christ.

I don't expect help from Baptist clergy. There may be 7,000 some where who are faithful to God and who would take up the plight of the children who were molested by clergy, but I do doubt that many of them are in the ministry in any Baptist denomination.

But let's not be dismayed by that. Christ had His people and knew His people, even though the religious leaders of Israel killed Him. Christ didn't expect any help from clergy either, in His day. But He still won His battle.

Anonymous said...

They do not care, Crista. But they care very much on whether a woman is 'usurping' her 'role' over any man. They care very much about 'roles', rules and formulas for how we should live as men and women with their pink and blue hermeneutics. This is something they will spend a lot of time preaching and teaching about.

We must relinquish expectations and realize these are lost people who care about power, influence and money. The outward appearance is of all importance but the cup inside is dirty.

Most will not admit that they are simply Pharisees. The biggest mistake we make is in thinkig they represent the true Body of Christ. The Pharisees thought they were holy, too.

Jesus put a little child on his lap in Matt 18. A child that, in that day and time, was considered as low on the social totem pole as a slave. He said that we must become like these little ones to enter the kingdom. I am sure many adults listening gasped. No one wants to become that low.

AS more and more people really study the Word, they realize that what they are seeing in our institutional structures built by mere humans instead of the Holy Spirit are dead and are nothing of Christ..they will leave. They are leaving. And these days, those who are leaving are doing so with a heavy is not an easy thing. Those who want entertainment and a human to follow will stay in these cults of personality and temples of entertainment. And as the economy tightens, we will see more money dry up. Even those who love to follow men will think twice about paying their large salaries.

The true Body of Christ cares for the least of these. Don't ever let anyone tell you different.